Letters to the Editor

Fooling yourselves

At first I thought your November issue was just an early April Fools joke, but after I read page after page of ridiculous apologies and endorsements for one wimpy liberal Democrat after another, I came to the sad conclusion that you were actually serious.

Take, for example, the assertion made by Jim Cullen in his lead editorial: "Progressives can be pleased with the re-election of senators Tom Harkin, Paul Wellstone, Max Baucus, Carl Levin, John Kerry and Jay Rockefeller..."

Pleased? About what? About the fact that all of them remain hopelessly wedded to an ideologically bankrupt Democratic party? That all of them, yes, even your favorite son Wellstone, had to all but sell their souls to raise millions upon millions of dollars, much of it from corporate sources, to reach their lofty positions? Or should we be pleased that every one of them gave unqualified endorsements to Clinton's shameless presidency while avoiding like the plague the real progressive alternatives?

And, to add insult to injury, we're told in another Jim Cullen piece ("Progressives: Quit Whining, Start Organizing") that Wellstone's reelection bid should be "studied by every progressive organizer in the country." But Wellstone raised and spent over $7 million dollars in the small state of Minnesota to basically buy his reelection bid. Can you imagine what $7 million could do in the state of Minnesota if it were in the hands of a real progressive organization, rather than being used selfishly for the reelection of one (yes, one) U.S. senator. Besides, how about some analysis on where this kind of money came from? How about the strings attached? To pretend that this kind of money in the hands of liberal Democrats is somehow saintly is the height of hypocrisy.

It also seemed more than a bit bizarre that while telling your readers how necessary it is to go out and emulate the multi-million-dollar efforts of your favorite Democratic senators, your own publication is struggling to get more than 1,500 subscribers to plunk down $18 each. Or do you plan on getting some major gifts from your ideological beacons, Senators Kerry and Rockefeller, who happen to be two of the wealthiest men alive?

If this nonsense continues, please do us all a favor by changing your name to The Liberal Democrat and stop fooling yourselves.

Michael Colby
R.R.1, Box 30
Walden, Vermont 05873

Editor Replies: We're sorry that it takes millions of dollars for a progressive senator like Wellstone to win re-election in Minnesota, but we know what an underfinanced populist campaign produces - the 44% Victor Morales got in Texas running against Phil Gramm or the 1% Ralph Nader got. Money is corrosive to the body politic, but populists will have to raise some on their own as well as organize at the grassroots to force a change in the way elections are financed. Until progressive populists show they can win elections, they will continue to operate at the margins, with our without money.

We don't anticipate support from Kerry or Rockefeller, who admittedly aren't populists, but they are considerably more progressive than their Republican opponents. Yes, progressives can be pleased that they won but they don't have to be. And you can find out how much candidates raised and spent and where the money came from on the Internet at FECInfo, a private web site or from Project Vote Smart, 129 NW 4th St. #204, Corvallis, OR 97330, or call 541-754-2746. Incidentally, Wellstone actually reported raising $5,728,000 for 1995-96, as of Nov. 25, with 88% coming from individual donations, according to FECInfo,. The bulk of contributions were under $200. He got $568,000 from PACs (mainly union-related; details are available at the web site).

Waking up 100 years later

I believe that the old-time populists talked about all the issues and institutions of their day. So far, I have never read an article in your paper about the Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations or the tax-dodging foundations, especially the 100 largest in the Foundation Directory which is published by the Foundation Center. You remind me a little of Rip Van Winkle. Whereas Rip Van Winkle was asleep for 20 years, the Populists have been asleep since about 1896, so I guess you have a lot of catching up to do.

Several books that will inform you of what has been going on these past 100 years are:

-- Who Rules America Now? G. William Domhoff, Prentice-Hall 1983

-- The Rich and the Super Rich, Ferdinand Lundberg, Lyle Stuart, Inc. 1968

-- American Hegemony and The Trilateral Commission, Stephen Gill, Cambridge University Press 1990

There are many others, but these three will make a good beginning.

Your use of the words populist and progressive interchangeably is confusing. They originally had two distinct meanings. I might call Jay Rockefeller and John Kerry progressives, in a limited sense, but populists, never!

I would like to know if you consider your organization more progressive than populist or more populist than progressive.

Robert M. Mills
PO Box 610024
Birmingham, Ala. 35261

EDITOR REPLIES: We consider ourselves both, as our name declares. We reaize that progressives aren't necessarily the same as populists, but neither faction will win until they get together.

In Defense of 'Subsidized Cows'

I enjoyed the article "What the American People Really Want" by Donnella Meadows (10/96 Progressive Populist) until the author took a cheap and simplistic shot at "subsidized cattle" raised on public lands. I realize that this is a topic that smart people trot out as one major cause for the deterioration of Western Civilization and in so doing prove that they are intelligent and well read. Everyone agrees that "subsidized cows" are a major problem and rightly belong in a list including millions of children thrown into poverty and the continued production of expensive and useless weapons - except perhaps me.

The author is parroting conventional wisdom and this is one more example where what everyone is saying and thinking is simply wrong. The public rangelands and "subsidized cows" with which I am most familiar are those in Eastern Montana. The range condition in Eastern Montana is, today, in the best shape that it has been since they have started measuring such things. The Range Scientists go so far as to speculate that range condition is better than it was when Lewis and Clark first described the land along the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. Except for bison, whose ecological niche is now being filled by cattle, wildlife has never been more abundant. Deer, antelope, and elk are plentiful. Too plentiful! Maybe rangeland management in Montana is exceptional but, if it is, then it should serve as model. After all, grass and herbivores co-evolved. They need each other. Cattle grazing on public lands is a public benefit.

If the conventional wisdom about the destruction of public lands by greedy cattlemen and their equally greedy cattle is not true, what about the "subsidized" part of the issue? It is true that grazing leases are inexpensive. However, ranchers pay more than any other users of public lands. The next most frequent users of public lands, hunters, campers, and picture takers, pay nothing at all.

To understand why agriculturists pay little for the use of public lands (and recreationalists pay less) one need to understand how these lands came to be under Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service control. During the depression that befell (or was caused to befall) agriculture between 1920 and 1941, millions of homesteaders simply gave up and abandoned land that was too mountainous or arid. This land, along with land that was too mountainous or arid to ever have been claimed, make up the bulk of public grazing lands. The failed homesteaders, when they left, let many of their horses go free to fend for themselves. These horses did well and infested the most fragile and arid parts of Eastern Montana. Homesteaders who were fortunate enough to have settled the more fertile valley bottoms weathered the hard times, and continued in their dreams to live and work land that they actually owned. These survivors, both equine and human, simply used the abandoned land with no thought or ability to manage it properly.

This lack of management and subsequent deterioration of the rangelands was finally addressed by the Taylor Grazing Act. The Act was a compact between the people using the open range and the government. The government set and enforced limits on grazing. The ranchers accepted the limitations and paid an annual fee for an open ended lease. Without going into the technical details on the art, science and practice of range management - sixty years later Eastern Montana is in as good or better shape than ever. Professor Meadows states in the article that "I want the nation's resources managed for long term productivity..." In this case, at least, the wish is granted.

Why then would the professor, along with lots of other wise and smart people feel that there is a problem of "subsidized cows" on public lands? I doubt that it really has anything to do about money. If money was the central issue, there would be an equal call to stop the subsidized hunters and the subsidized picture takers. Remember, non-government subsidized recreation is expensive. I am delving into speculation here but myths do not permeate a culture for no apparent reason. A telling example might be the generation who settled the prairies. They felt that the Native Americans were simply too ignorant to properly use the land they lived on. It was only right that these savages be removed to reservations while the smarter and more industrious Europeans made the land fruitful and bountiful.

This was the "myth" that sanctioned the destruction of the Indian Nations. "Myths" are normally a complex combination of truth, ignorance, and hypocrisy. The "myth" that the rangelands are being destroyed by greedy ranchers bellied up to the public hog trough sanctions the removal of the range lands from agricultural production to other more "noble" endeavors. Others, more capable and professional, (such as graduates of schools of environmental studies) will manage these lands for the true public good. What is the highest and greatest of these public goods? Undoubtedly there are many admirable ideas about protecting the environment, bio-diversity, and the utopia of "wild" areas free of human management. Unfortunately, in reality, the highest and greatest good for which the land will be used is, of course, recreation.

What is wrong with this? Recreation is good. However, consider that in the next 25 to 30 years 3 billion more people will be living from the world's resources. Before those 30 years are up, a handful of trans-national corporations will own and control all agricultural production and distribution worldwide (read the Progressive Populist). Meanwhile in this country the highest and greatest good that we can find for land is to build houses, roads, and - recreation. This doesn't sound too promising.

I truly enjoy this magazine and I even enjoyed the article in question. However if progressive thinkers are to make any impact on this decidedly right wing society, their thoughts will need to be more rigorous than simple regurgitated, half baked philosophies cooked up in Walt Disney's dream factory ( i.e. Bambi).

Gilles Stockton
Stockton Ranch
P.O. Box 182
Grass Range, MT 59032

Say No to Meat

"Where have all the burgers gone?" asked the title [11/96 Progressive Populist, p. 13].

If you are eating charred beef, blistered to avoid disease, you are creating a double risk of cancer - char and beef. The mainline media have finally announced - finally - that "red meat" is carcinogenic. Certain foods or lack of them are the major cancer-causing agents, according to today's information. To be safe - or more nearly safe - from those animal-flesh-borne diseases, quit eating such stuff. A dead animal is a germ factory.

Quit animal slowly, but beef or veal immediately. Turkeys raised in our state still run free - last time we looked. And last time we read, they were not filled with antibiotics or hormones. Taper off with turkey and/or sea foods.

Learn the vegetable proteins; our ancestors practiced grain-legume combining without the scientific formulas. (We call those dishes "folk foods.") Tofu is the food of the future - as well as a food of thousands of years past. When you learn the cheeses, nuts, and grains, and fruits and veggies you have never heard of, your body will feel clean. Helps your soul, too.

Read, for starters, Diet For A Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe, any edition. Old, but no doubt the classic.

Save The Planet,
Ethel C. Hale and W. Paul Wharton
436 East Eighth South Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Newspaper Strikers: No Surrender!

We are newspaper workers who have been on strike since July 13, 1995 against the Detroit News, owned by Gannett, and the Detroit Free Press, owned by Knight-Ridder. We were forced to strike by these greedy billionaire newspaper chains who are out to bust our unions and deny us and our families a decent livelihood.

Gannett and Knight-Ridder are demanding the elimination of hundreds of our jobs as well as takeaways that would gut our contracts. In a public statement made a month after the strike began, Robert Giles, Editor and Publisher of the Detroit News, said: "We're going to hire a whole new workforce and go on without unions, or they can surrender unconditionally and salvage what they can."

That has been the publishers' position from the beginning and it has not changed in all these months. They are taking heavy financial losses in Detroit as a result of the strike but they are prepared to absorb such losses to achieve their main objective: bust the unions.

We believe the labor movement can stop them, that the Detroit newspaper strike can be won through labor solidarity and strength demonstrated in a massive national mobilization of the entire labor movement.

At its August 1996 meeting, the AFL-CIO Executive Council considered a proposal for a National Labor March on Detroit. Although the proposal was endorsed by the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO and the Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions (made up of all striking Detroit newspaper unions), the AFL-CIO Executive Council did not issue a call.

Now that the national election campaigns are over, we are appealing to unions around the country and supporters of our strike to join us in urging AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and the Executive Council to reconsider. A national labor march on Detroit will show Gannett and Knight-Ridder that all of labor supports this struggle - physically as well as financially. And it can help spur united labor actions in cities around the country directed against Gannett and Knight-Ridder facilities, including USA Today.

We believe we must act now because the future of the labor movement will be critically affected by the outcome of this strike. After all, if corporations like Gannett and Knight-Ridder can break unions in a labor stronghold like Detroit, what union anywhere is safe from similar union-busting?

It's time for Solidarity Day III, this time in Detroit. Please send a message to AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., urging a national labor march on Detroit in support of striking newspaper workers. And please send a copy to us. We deeply appreciate your continuing support.

Write, fax, call or E-mail: John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO, 815 16th St. NW, Washington D.C. 20006; fax 202-508-6946; phone 202-637-5000; e-mail:71112.53@compuserve.com, and cc Dia Pearce at the address below.

Newspaper Guild of Detroit, Local 22
3300 Book Building
Detroit, Michigan 48226
E-Mail Daymon2001@aol.com.

For preferential voting

I've enjoyed my first year with The Progressive Populist. I pass mine on to others in the neighborhood. This is one of those neighborhoods where Nader outpolled Dole in November. But it was an easy call for us. We didn't have to worry that Dole might take the state. Now the Smith-Brugrerre [Senate] race was a different matter.

Which gets me to the point of this note - the problem of voting for a progressive when it may be a close race between a real nut and someone who is not as bad.

The greatest solution to that problem seems to be the preferential voting system. This solution is also the one thing that ALL third or more parties could unite on. It would be a basic tenet of reform, regardless of ideology. If all these groups could stress that as a number one issue, and get it through, they could then measure exactly how much people support their various positions. As it is now, when it comes to a vote - and the chance to get some power - we are left with the sacrificial lambs who vote for a lost cause out of anger. That strategy will never accomplish much. ...

1401 E. 27th
Eugene, Oregon 97403

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